Fear and Loathing in Chile: Crystal Fairy

07/03/2013 4:00 AM |

Crystal Fairy
Directed by Sebastián Silva

It doesn’t seem difficult for Michael Cera to play an asshole. He has a clown’s face, boyish and birdish, and a bicycle helmet of hair, so when he’s not being funny he’s really not being funny—he’s an instant jerk, conspicuously at odds with the nature printed frankly on his body. Still, the character he and Fort Greene-based writer-director Silva cook up in this drug-tourism road-trip is amazingly dickish: entitled, selfish, rude, pretentious. Talk about an ugly American: without a thought he pushes his seat back to crush the guy behind him; he refuses to eat the local Chilean food because remember that one time he got sick?; he blathers pretentiously about phenomenology and Aldous Huxley. He drinks too much, does too much coke, tells a girl dancing happily at a party that she’s embarrassing herself.

That girl is the hippie of the title (Gaby Hoffman), who joins Cera and his Chilean friends (played by the director’s brothers) on their road trip north to find a bit of the powerfully hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus. She proves something of a match for Cera: she offers villagers drawings of fairies when they demand money; she asks the counter girl in a grocery store if she has “any fresher lettuce.” The difference, though, is that Crystal has a good heart; she’s the catalyst for Cera’s personal growth—well, she and the powerful peyote soup the gang finally cooks up on a remote beach. (The movie reminded me a little of the recent shitty horror movie Aftershock, also about a dumb American guided through Chile by locals, except in this movie there’s a team-building mescaline trip instead of a society-destroying earthquake.) I like the movie’s inverted dramatic structure: it begins in conflict but doesn’t build to a climax; as sometimes happens in life, through shared experience and chemicals, hostility recedes. And in its place emerges friendship.

Opens July 12